How to find an audience for your fine art photographs?

A discussion on LinkedIn Art Photography group about finding an audience for your fine art photographs

How to find an audience for your fine art photographs?

I would like to know how do you find the right audience for your fine art photography work? Inside the traditional gallery system and outside the gallery system?

Brian Grady • For what its worth I think a good way to gauge the "right" audience for your work is to approach local cafes or bars and exhibit there - they get free artwork for the walls and you get potential sales and feedback, so win win ! Armed with this kind of feedback you can then consider a gallery exhibition.

John Margetts • I agree with Brian. I have done this in a cafe and in a pub with good results sales-wise. A big plus is the length of time your pictures are exhibited for. In my case, both cafe and pub had my photographs on the wall for several months which is more than any gallery will offer you.

Another route you might consider is your local artisits' society if there is one.  I belong to Lincolnshire Artists Society and, although several photographer belong, I am the only photographer to exhibit with them. This is a serious society - I had to be refereed to join and each exhibition is also refereed - and makes clear your claim to being an artist (if that is what you want to be).

Nasrin Torabi • We have not Culture Shopping Images.

Janice Sullivan • Yep...check out your local area first and then branch off to other areas. Market yourself and add your images to contest asap. Get out there.... :)

Betty Lark Ross • You might also contact local school's to see if they have a gallery? Many high schools, especially private schools and large suburban schools, and all colleges and universities have galleries and are always seeking work to display. I recently had an exhibit of 40 of my photos from Cuba. I sold a few and now I am seeking another opportunity to share these images.

Eric C. Jackson • :o) I had the same question as Gerome, I appreciate the good feedback. Thank you.

Nasrin Torabi • This is a good way but when people want to buy photo for their salon s. I
n my people do not exept a photo for their beutifull salon !!!

Gerome Soriano • Thanks for all the replies everyone. I appreciate it.

Stan Bowman • You really need to start by asking what is your goal. Is it showing, sales, both, something else? Then after that you can think about a strategy. And I don't mean for tomorrow, I mean long term. Cafe's and libraries are fine for today but where do you want to go long term? And do you want to make a living off of sales or are you just happy to get your work out there so someone can see it, maybe buy a print or two?

If you want to create a long term strategy then start with where you are now. First question will be, is your work ready for "prime time", that is for display and sale? If possible get trusted friends or other knowledgeable "art" photographers to look and critique your work. Then if you think it is good enough create a strategy. Focus locally on easy venues such as cafe's or coffee houses or other public spaces. Consider the responses you get there that can then guide you in the next step which might be approaching galleries.

For that step start visiting local galleries, check out if they have art photography members, what kind of work they feature, consider if your work would fit in. Then if you gain a local gallery you can look to finding galleries in other cities and maybe abroad. Concomitant with seeking gallery representation enter juried national shows but don't get discouraged if you get turned down. A 50% acceptance rate is actually quite good. Also be selective, just apply to those that look good to you.

Another step in exploring local venues is look for cooperative galleries which are sometimes easier to get into than commercial galleries. And it can be really fun and very revealing being in with a bunch or other artists, not just other photographers. You can learn a lot about your work this way.

If you get into some galleries also think then about seeking out museum shows. Many have open juried shows that can bring you attention for your work and help promote your name beyond your local venue. Or also there are some state art councils that make artist grants to support ongoing work. Look for those.

In the end the route I am suggesting is one that focuses on becoming an active exhibiting professional and establishing a reputation locally to nationally. This assumes that is your long term goal. But if you want something less ambitious then of course just search out local venues like coffee houses. They are always looking for work to show.
20 days ago• Unlike 5

Rich Flansburg • Stan has the right ideas. Strategy is a very important first step. Great local places to work with include the afore mentioned coffeehouses and restaurants. In addition, depending on your works' subject matters, consider working with a local framing shop because it's a win-win as they can display their work and you provide the art to be framed. Talk with interior decorators and friends with professional offices such as lawyers, doctors, dentists, financial planners and such. The important part is that you have to be out their promoting yourself all the time. In my community another photographer are working on establishing "pop-up galleries" is unrented retail spaces. This strategy gives owners of the spaces something to keep their buildings in the public eye for potential renters and the artists/photographers get positive feedback for being community business boosters. Open your eyes and let your imagination run wild.

Gerome Soriano • Stan: I really appreciate your comments and in taking the time to share your expertise and insights.

"Is it showing, sales, both, something else?"
-it is both showing and selling my work. but more than that building an audience that knows, appreciates and patronizes my work is my goal.

"Cafe's and libraries are fine for today but where do you want to go long term? And do you want to make a living off of sales or are you just happy to get your work out there so someone can see it, maybe buy a print or two?"
- i do agree with that. after asking questions from some fellow local artists I found out that shows are shows and they rarely sell a lot there. but they're a good way of building reputation and showing your work.

"is your work ready for "prime time", that is for display and sale?"
-this I cannot answer precisely. Trusted friends and advisers like the work I do and some of them encourage me to try to get a show in a gallery. But I am hesistant to follow that advice because a show for me is more of a marketing expense than a way to having a sustainable career. My work has been well receivedl in my College thesis as one of the outstanding thesis of our batch and on a recent portfolio review I was awarded with the most appreciated portfolio presentation. Though the reviewer and an adviser pointed out to reconsider the way I post-process a certain series of my work.

On galleries and show
-I'm hessitant to do this because I find them quite expensive and unrewarding financially. What I'm looking now is a way to "sustain" doing what I love.

Exploring local venues
- I also looked into that. But I find that the customer base there is much, much different to the gallery customer base. As a start do I have to sell smaller pieces at lower prices just to get the work out there or do I have to "protect" the value of the photographs by waiting for a big collector to start patronizing my work.

Gerome Soriano • Rich: your comment is rich with ideas. You read my mind, before checking Linkedin again I was thinking about interviewing interior designers alumni from out college. Regarding pop-up galleries there is venue with a lot of art spaces that rents out parking space that can be used to sell arts and crafts every Sundays. That's something I want to try. Any suggestion of what kinds of pieces are more likely to sell there?
19 days ago

Brian Grady • As a follow up to my suggetion of displaying in cafe bars etc.... You don´t have to sell "cheap" smaller pieces, you can display and charge what you believe you can get. Also an alternative to a full gallery experience might be to diplay your portfolio on a print provider site like Fine Art America - not a great cost, and again you get feedback on what potential customers are looking at.

Rich Flansburg • Gerome: Since my earlier comments, I've reviewed your blog, press kit and other online materials and am very impressed with your work. The kite/aerial portfolio is really neat as is the "scary things" portfolio. At this point I would suggest you really start thinking globally with your personal marketing program. Develop a list of photo and fine art publications (print and electronic) and gallery directors around the world. Then create your PR campaign to reach these folks on a regular basis. You could distribute an e- newsletter (short in length) or updates on current and future projects. Don't forget Facebook and Linked in. You might even create a kite photos facebook page and expand on that project. And don't forget the stock photo market. There are many well-known photographers who began and continue to supply the stock market even though they are primarily known as fine art photographers or photojournalists. Gerome, you must be as committed to marketing yourself as you are committed to your photography. One last thing for now, checkout office buildings where you might be able to mount one-man shows in the lobbies of the buildings.

Gerome Soriano • Thanks for taking the time to review my materials Rich.

Ruth Henare • Hi Gerome glad to see you have asked online how to gauge the right audience which will enable you to sustain yourself and understand the promotion about how you see yourself.I have friends including myself who work in the fine arts have set portfolios,limited sets of publication, and work in a niche also that helps them to sustain themselves with collective interests like teaching in the fine arts or marketing in the fine arts. Hope you are able to sort this for yourself eventually, It is good to put your work on display but also to keep active in other areas that compliment your work.I have made several good contacts from abstract artists here online and enjoy their ideas and am working to pieces that will take me about 10 years to complete once I have collected enough pieces for collage etc. Meanwhile I enjoy the interaction of Linkedin and what a diverse and interesting range of people - good luck.

Stan Bowman • Gerome, you say above that you want to be able to sustain yourself on your work, i.e. sell your work. The key to this seems to be getting your work out, getting it seen and appreciated, and developing a following which of course can take years. Rarely do I see an artist (let alone a photographer) launch straight away into selling their work and earning a living from it. And it unfortunately takes time and money to make this happen. So one has to be ready to bear the cost of promotion in early career. For most photographers they only reach the goal of sustaining themselves after spending many years building their reputation and promoting and marketing their work, and during that time this will take a lot of your money.

Yes there are exceptions, overnight wonders who get recognition almost immediately, but these are one in a thousand, maybe more. So while you are working on this it is necessary, even imperative, to have an income from another source. And in the end you need unwavering faith in your work and your ability to find recognition, which may come when you least expect it or from a direction you never imagined.

You say you are hesitant about galleries and shows because of the costs, but that is part of this path towards sustaining yourself with your photography. At the beginning you front the cost but later on if you gain a reputation it reverses and your work starts to support you. At least that is what I have seen happen to other artists and photographers who take to the road towards looking for a way for their work to support them.

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